As someone who has studied ragwort for many years I have to disagree with Alan Hiscox from the British Horse Society.

Ragwort is subject of misinformation. Wild stories have been published and odd ideas circulate on social media. We are told it is a serious problem in South Africa, where actually it has never been recorded.

It has been accused of poisoning the Cinnabar Moth and causing its decline, but actually needs the plant as food for its caterpillars. Mr Hiscox appears to be a victim of these wild stories.

The assertion that livestock are at high risk if it grows with in 50 yards of them is based on a well-known publication which badly misused statistics. A source that only produced one unconfirmed poisoning case in eight years was exaggerated and multiplied in a pseudo-scientific way. In reality the scientific research is clear. Ragwort poisoning is rare. The international data shows this.

There are two problems. These are where animals are fed considerable quantities in hay and where animals are cruelly starved into eating it. The plant does have its uses as it is one of the most ecologically important plants. Thirty-five insect species totally rely on ragwort for food and another 83 species are recorded as using it, with a further estimated 50 species of parasite in turn feeding on those.

Government research shows that of more than 7,000 plant species in Britain ragwort is the seventh most important nectar-producing plant supporting wild bees and butterflies. It has another ironic use that is significant. It was once used as a herbal treatment for hysteria.

Neil Jones

Henry Street,


West Glamorgan